We are buying a car. We knew we would want to eventually but in the spirit of living cheap and making art, we wanted to first experience what life would be like without one. I have to say that for the most part it has been a wonderful experience, with only ourselves to worry about, not having any large material possessions to call our own. Footloose and fancy free as it were. And we have been so many places! Traveling throughout Umbria and into some of the surrounding regions has been quite easy and inexpensive. We learned how to read the "orario", the bus or train schedule and how to ask the formerly grumpy guy at the bus station questions (I wrote about this experience in a previous blog!) and it was relaxing to just sit on the bus or train and not have to navigate our way or deal with the frustrations of traffic and parking a car in the cities. However, the trade-off of this freedom from traffic anxiety was that we were bound to someone else's schedule, often being forced to leave earlier than we would have liked and not free to really roam about and stop wherever we wanted to, along the road. At the same time, we feel that we spent more time in each city than we would have if we had driven there because inevitably we would have made many stops along the way and divided our time more between the getting there and the being there. So it will be interesting to see how our lives change once we have our own mode of transportation and we will let you know how it goes.
In any case, we are excited about this change in our status and so far, the experience has been painless. Bob did a lot of research on the different banks here, since we decided we needed to open an account at an Italian bank, so that we could have immediate access to our money once we found a car. With the help and advice of Giovanna (our friend with the Internet café) we chose the Banca Monte dei Paschi di Sienna because, in her opinion, they had the least amount of fees (although we have heard different opinions about this) and from what we were told by the very kind young man named Christian who spoke English, they were very willing to work us and help us through this process. Giovanna even offered to come with us to the bank if we had any problems but everything went fairly smoothly. First Bob went and spoke to them, they said we could open a "Pensioner's" account so the fees would be lower and we signed all the application forms necessary. There was a little snag in that we went down there on Wednesday, about a week ago, and Christian informed us that the manager, the person who knew the most about what we wanted to do, was on vacation still and would we mind coming back on Monday. Surprised at this, we agreed to come back and, as it turned out, on Monday the manager was still not in when we got there, and Christian ended up being able to handle our needs with a little help from someone else there at the bank. Not totally sure what had changed, and not in a big hurry since we hadn't found our car yet, we went along with the situation. He was so sweet and tried so hard, it was difficult to be annoyed, even though we were puzzled at how this played out. Nevertheless, since we had all of our ducks in a row - Permesso di Soggiorno, Codice Fiscale, and our Identity Card - it was a relatively easy and painless process. The next step was to have our funds transferred from Wachovia to our bank here in Perugia.
One of the minor problems was just the time difference - there is a 9-hour time difference between Italy and Arizona, so that complicated the process a bit and made for some interesting calls back and forth.
We want to say a few words about Dee Ann Griebel, of Wachovia, in Phoenix who has been our financial advisor for several years now, whom we trust immensely, and her very competent and helpful staff. (A big note of thanks goes to Judy Smith who I worked with at P.S. Studios who recommended Dee and to whom I will always be grateful for this fact.) They have been so responsive to our questions and our requests, it has been a complete pleasure doing business with them and we appreciate their help so much. All the transfers occurred as promised and they always returned our calls promptly and went out of their way to make sure we were satisfied and that our needs were met. We are by no means a big account for this company so we appreciate being treated as if we were important to them.
Account open, funds in place, we were now ready to hand it over to someone else in exchange for a car. We had already looked around and had an idea of what we wanted. We talked with Sergio, our landlord and asked if he would mind coming with us to look at some cars and maybe helping us out with the language and customs. Sergio went above and beyond the call of duty. He took this as his personal mission: finding us a car. His wife Rita said he enjoyed doing this and we hope so because we know he spent a good deal of time on it. Last week he came over to our apartment and showed us several options he had looked into from one of these Auto Trader-type publications and why one was better than another and finally presented us with his best recommendation - a Toyota Yaris, just the right size for us (a little smaller than my VW Jetta) but large enough to hold our luggage). He arranged for us to look at it a few days later and we took a test drive. It's a 2000 model but looks and acts like a new car. The guy selling it and his wife recently had a child and it is too small for them, which is why they are selling it. It doesn't have a lot of miles on it - 67,000 km (x.6 for the miles = around 40,000 - pretty good we think for a 5 year old car) since it wasn't their primary car. It has been meticulously maintained with all the paperwork to prove it and Sergio felt that it was a good deal for us. In fact he likes the car so much he said if we took good care of it that he would buy it from us when we leave Italy! And, we were thrilled that he will also let us park the car in the garden, where there is a small parking area behind a locked gate. This is tremendous for us because parking can be a big headache in a city like this. We have so much to be thankful for.
We will pick up the car on Friday and we'll let you know how it goes. We went to the bank this morning and withdrew our money. Tomorrow we hand it over to Fernando and arrange for the insurance etc. We can hardly wait.